Aaron Brooks is back with the Houston Rockets and he's back with an all-new cast.
The 6-foot Brooks signed with Houston on Tuesday, returning to the team that drafted him with the 26th overall pick in 2007. The Rockets traded Brooks in February 2011 and have since changed coaches and completely rebuilt the roster.
When Brooks walked into his first practice, he didn't see a single teammate from his previous time in Houston.
"A whole bunch of new guys," Brooks said. "But everybody seems pretty cool and I'm happy to be back."
To make room for Brooks, the Rockets waived forward Tyler Honeycutt, who was acquired from Sacramento in a multi-player trade just before the deadline. Houston picked up rookie Thomas Robinson and Francisco Garcia in that deal and now add Brooks, who averaged eight points and 2.3 assists in 46 games for the Kings this season.
Brooks was waived by Sacramento on Friday, and he becomes the third point guard on Houston's roster, joining Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley. Coach Kevin McHale said it was too early to tell how he would use Brooks or how quickly he would work into the rotation.
"Aaron's comfortable with Houston, he's been here before, so hopefully that will help him," McHale said. "It's his first day, he's got to figure out a lot of new stuff."
The Rockets (33-28) hold the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference heading into Wednesday's game in Dallas. The Rockets routed the Mavericks 136-103 on Sunday night, Houston's fourth win in six games and the last thing Brooks wants to do is upset chemistry.
"It's a good team, Lin is playing well and Patrick's playing well," Brooks said. "That gives you a little bit of time to kind of ease your way into it and kind of fit in."
Brooks, 28, played his first 3 ½ NBA seasons in Houston, averaging 12.8 points and 3.6 assists per game from 2007-11. He took over the starting role when Rafer Alston was traded in February 2009 and helped Houston advance to the second round of the post-season for the first time since 1997.
Lin, four years younger, is eager to see what he can learn from Brooks as the Rockets try to return to the post-season for the first time in four seasons.
Guidance and leadership
"He's a little older, so he'll be able to give us guidance and help and leadership," Lin said. "That's what we need. He'll be a stabilizer for us."
Brooks showed spectacular flashes during Houston's last playoff run, in 2009. He scored 27 points in a first-round win over Portland and scored 34 in a rousing playoff victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. He had his best statistical season in 2009-10, averaging 19.6 points and 5.3 assists per game. He led the NBA and set a Rockets' single-season record with 209 3-pointers that season and was named the league's most improved player.
Brooks was traded to Phoenix for Goran Dragic and played in China during the lockout. He had to play out his contract there, delaying the possibility of returning to the NBA. But he made the most of his time there, leading the Guangdong Southern Tigers to the championship round.
"I wouldn't take that back for the world," Brooks said. "A lot of guys don't get a chance to do that. Just that whole 'being out of the country and being able to survive when you don't speak the main language' was a good opportunity and learning experience for me."
The Kings signed Brooks to a two-year contract in July 2012, then bought it out when they waived him last week.
Two seasons ago, Brooks sprained his left ankle early in the season, lost his starting job to Kyle Lowry and then was suspended one game for leaving the bench during a victory over Memphis. He apologized to then-coach Rick Adelman and general manager Daryl Morey, then was traded two weeks later.
Brooks said he got over that a long time ago and was happy the Rockets thought of him after the Kings let him go.
"That means I must've done something right when I was here," Brooks said. "I kind of went out on a bad note. To have the team that traded you want you back, it feels real good. I was cool with the coaching staff when I left, I thought. I don't think there are any problems at all. I don't remember that much of it."